Periodically the Oxford Ornithological Society organises an event at Farmoor as a publicity and membership drive. I don't normally bother going to these (I'm already a member) but on Sunday the event was going to be a "bio blitz", a bid to identify and classify all the different species of flaura and fauna in a given area over a 24 hour period. The bit that particularly caught my eye was the moth trapping, especially since they'd persuaded Richard Lewington, the famous insect illustrator and brother to Ian, to come along and identify the trapped moths. I was thinking that this would be a good opportunity to see some new moths that I wouldn't come across in my urban garden as well as a chance to meet the man himself. Accordingly I turned up bright and early at 8am on Sunday morning at Farmoor when the traps were due to be opened.
It turned out that they'd set two traps, one in the car park by Gate 3 and one over at Pinkhill where there is a pond and extensive reeds and sedges etc. This latter location would have been very interesting but unfortunately that trap didn't work (the light had gone off) and it was empty. This left us with the car park trap plus a few moths they'd collected by hand from around the lights in the general area. Richard went through the car park trap (a huge Robinson) which was packed with midges and frankly a rather poor selection of moths given that it had been a good night for mothing. There were the usual suspects for this time of year: Square-spot Rustics, Setaceous Hebrew Characters, Large and Lesser Yellow Underwings but it wasn't much of a catch as Richard freely admitted. There was just a single micro which managed to escape but given how few moths there were I wasn't going to let it get away so easily and tracked it to a patch of grass a short distance away where it was potted up and ID'd. I then went through the potted moths that were picked up from the lights and managed to find a couple which were new to me - not such a difficult task given that I've only been mothing a few months in my urban garden. Whilst the trapping session hadn't been the moth cornucopia that I'd hoped for it did get me thinking that I should definitely make the effort to go to some other moth trapping events in the future as a way to expand my paltry moth repertoire.
The errant micro: Eudonia Pallida
Richard Lewington pondering a moth. He seems to share
his brother's penchant for wearing shorts in all weathers
After the mothing sesion I wandered across the causeway (nothing of note to report) to Pinkhill where there was a bird ringing demonstration. This was entertaining and we saw the usual suspects in the hand and even got to hold and release some of them ourselves. I leant how to sex a starling (females have an orange ring in their eye whereas it's all black in a male). We were also shown how to tell apart a Willow Warbler and a Chiffchaff by counting the emarginations on the outer primary feathers: if I remember correctly the outer 6 primaries are emarginated for a Chiffchaff whereas it's only the outer five for Willow Warbler. All good stuff and I decided to bring L my six year old son next time as I'm sure he would have enjoyed seeing and holding the birds (actually he's getting quite interested in the butterflies and moths in the garden at present and likes having the moths on his hand). Anyway, after a while I wandered back across the causeway and headed back home.
The ringing demonstration
The usual suspects in hand
I had intended to come back in the evening when Ian Lewington was going to lead a gull roost session but my VLW's niece came over for dinner and I started to feel a bit under the weather so I decided to give it a miss. All in all however, it was definitely an interesting experience and I'll certainly be back for the next one.